Salome Dazzles… and Dances in Vancouver Opera's production of Oscar Wilde and Richard Strauss
It's a biblical story set in Judea, retold by an Irish writer, originally written in French, turned into an opera by a German composer and sung in German, with a Sri Lankan tenor has a crush on the Russian star soprano, with Asian Jews for support.
European Opera is a great example of intercultural art, or sometimes it is cultural appropriation. But whatever the perspective, great art has always come from pushing conventional boundaries, cross-cultural pollination, and heroic boldness in the search to tell old stories in fresh and exciting ways.
This is evident, as soon as you walk into the Q.E. Theatre. The angular set in bright deep yellow commands the attention. The lighting is horizontal on the characters standing by the prison. After a long extended silence, the music and singing begin, as Narraboth (Sean Panikkar), captain of the guard, gazes on the princess Salome, describing her beauty.
But Salome (Mlada Khudoley) is not interested in the young captain, and bored with the banquet, she asks Narraboth about the imprisioned prophet John the Baptist, and whether it is true he questions her mother's sinful life. Smitten by Salome, Narraboth submits to her pleading to meet the prophet. And this is where many of the humanities dark sexual obsessions come to clash in a dysfunctional family, where the former King's brother-in-law killed the king, to take his wife and is obsessed with his step-daughter.
This sets the stage for wonderfully dramatic music where all principals display fine voice. John Mac Master plays King Herod with a strong presence, in the face of Judith Forst's mocking Herodias. Greer Grimsley's Jokanaan (John the Baptist) is an amazingly strong figure, especially when tugging against the ropes that bind him.
Vancouver Opera continues to push cultural boundaries by introducing Manga styled Graphic pictures into it's marketing programs.